How to talk candidly about…the Israel lobby

Much has been written and broadcast about the nature of the public conversation on Israel. Not much has dealt with a more difficult topic: how to discuss the “Israel lobby” in the U.S. in a manner that:

    is accurate;
    is productive;
    does not provide fuel to the people who are yearning for proof of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, yet does not hesitate to rebuke what must be rebuked.

If anyone thinks it is possible to accomplish all of that at the same time, especially in the Wild Wild Rhetorical West of the blogosphere, I’d love to hear suggestions for how to do it. What are the rhetorical red lines? When does anti-Israel-lobbyism become anti-Semitism?

I’ll have more to say about this when I have a bit more time. In the meantime, those who live in the New York area might be interested in checking out the following panel discussion in New York City, where I plan to address this topic. I will be on the panel with Philip Weiss and Ann Roiphe on June 21st. If you live in the area, check it out.

Ameinu and Meretz USA are pleased to present:

How to Talk Candidly About Israel
A conversation among progressive American Jews

What are the obstacles to discussing the occupation and U.S-Israel relations in the public arena? How can they be overcome?


Anne Roiphe
Author and Political Commentator
Contributing Editor, The Jerusalem Report

Philip Weiss
Author, Blogger and Contributor to The Nation on “The Israel Lobby”

Dan Fleshler
Political Analyst, Blogger and Board member,
Ameinu and Americans for Peace Now

June 21, 2007 7:30 P.M.

The Stephen Wise Free Synagogue
30 West 68th Street, New York, NY

For more information: and

23 thoughts on “How to talk candidly about…the Israel lobby

  1. wow, Phil ( I’m with Hamas ) Weiss in the flesh. Dan I wouldn’t miss that one. And I promise I’ll come unarmed.

  2. You and your ugly, mental-case friend, Phil Weiss, should could make your conference more relevant by calling it “How to talk candidly about…the Arab Problem“. Justice in America is trumped by everyody driving their SUVs with chap gas and consuming five times as mush as the rest of the world.

    If it weren’t for kissing ass of the Arabs with oil, we could talk more candidly about the Israel Lobby and what should really be done.

  3. I also think talking about the “Israel lobby” is a distraction, and more prone to blame than to ethics.

    The way to counter those that assert “Israel is always right” or “anything Israel does is justified”, is to pose the BETTER ARGUMENT, not to opportunistically oppose the messenger.

    It is the common MO of both the far left and the right, to dismiss the messenger instead of the messenger’s content.

    But blogs are not enough to articulate an alternative message and proposal.

  4. Phil and I are friends through family. (My aunt and his parents were lifelong “best” friends. As a teenager I spent a couple summers with my aunt, and with Phil and his family.)

    Phil is a humane man, who is sincerely personally attempting to get to the nut of issues.

    Where is the nut (rather than the dead shell) is an important next question?

    At the same time, I’ve been often disappointed with his willingness to frame his presentations in exagerated headline, with inflammatory caption.

    The blogosphere.

    I do want to again thank both Dan and Phil and other bloggers, that have made the commitment to “publish” and to host.

    Us peanut gallery owe them for the opportunity to express our vanity (as well as our content), but without the responsibility of maintaining a well-fed, civil living room.

  5. Richard,

    You wrote:

    “I also think talking about the “Israel lobby” is a distraction, and more prone to blame than to ethics.*

    And Realistic Israel denounces the notion of paying any attention to this topic.

    Folks, take a look at what is being said about American Jews and the Israel lobby on the blogosphere. Take a look at what some of the regulars on Phil Weiss’s blog routinely write about Jewish Power. Much of what they are saying is alarming to me as an American Jews and should be alarming to you.

    If you look at the “Publications” page on this website, you will see an article in Reform Judaism in which I attempted to counter the still-widespread notion that the war in Iraq is a “war for Israel.” If you go to the Ameinu web site and the Meretz Weblog and poke around a little, you will also find a little speech I gave about the Mearsheimer-Walt paper. In that one, I discussed how the AIPAC network of PACS and individuals does not contribute as much money to Congress as is commonly believed. (Sorry, don’t have time to find the links).

    These and other topics MUST be addressed, somehow. And the best people to address them are American Jews who are not afraid to criticize Israel but who care deeply about it… and who sometimes publicly disagree with the conventional Israel lobby but are willing and able to refute offensive –or offensively-phrased– myths about it.

  6. Why not talk about the Lobbying Industry in general. The Israel Lobby is no different than any other special interest…

  7. I read a couple references on the Ameinu site, and it was “he said … about me”, back and forth.

    I applaud the efforts that you’ve made here to encourage and actually achieve mostly civil discussion here.

    Getting into the “Israel lobby” one way or antoher, will likely change that here.

  8. This sounds like a really interesting talk and I will certainly be there.

    One thing that irks me though is the fact that there are no Arab or Palestinian voices on the panel. I am not one of the people who think that every panel needs to have “balance” between “both sides” as I think this kind of thinking is in itself more biased than what it aims to oppose: by drawing up and defining “both sides” to any issue arbitrarily, one draws the limits of the debate and acceptable views.

    However, in this case, I think it would be worth it to present someone who is active from the Palestinian side of the issue to discuss their experience and how they view the topic. And though Phil Weiss is an honorary Palestinian, it is still not quite the same.

    I’ll surely be there, and I look forward to meeting you in the flesh Dan.

  9. Yeah, the panel needs a Palestinian “victim”, to cry about their sad, made-up history.

    No Israel panel is complete without one.

  10. any change to have a webcast, for a curious German & other netizens or refugees ?

    Besides I am pleased to see this:
    “does not provide fuel to the people who are yearning for proof of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, yet does not hesitate to rebuke what must be rebuked”

    Never underestimate this part of the story. Even if you are less familiar with the really sick fiction versions of the Protocols the Nazis published for the masses.

  11. Unfortunately, the absence of such material will provide fuel as in “What do they have to hide?” type comments.

    That type does not need new fuel to burn bright. They have a full history of fake fuel to burn. These people have to be dismissed in a fashion that leaves them on the fringes like Zundel and his allies.

  12. Leander,
    You speak of “versions” of the protocols. There are NO genuine versions, sick or otherwise. They are ALL malevolent fictions.

  13. The versions I had in mind here are the special editions of the chapter of Sir John Retcliff aka Herman Goedsche’s adventure novel: Biarritz.

    If you scroll down to about one third of the site below you find the cover of the most vicious of these editions.

    The Jewish Cementary in Praque

    This edition, is either printed or feigns to be printed in Praque and adds a series of black and white photographs in the end of the real Jewish cementary.

    I guess these special editions are for the not so politically interested masses, that Goebbels and his sub-divisions subsume should be told the “core” story.

    But versions, yes there are versions. Cesare De Michelis

    The “versions” I would personally be very interested in are the diverse translations introductions that fit the protocols into the diverse national contexts with, I am subsuming quie a series of cherry picked events.

  14. 2 responses to Israeli art student and Saifedean,

    Art student: I am in Europe and am not able to join the rally. I had planned to go, but, in truth, mostly as an observer, and partly as a participant who hoped to find at least a few fellow travellers on this very very narrow path where I am trying to walk. I have some of the same problems with the organizing principles as Michael Lerner and Brit Tzedek V’ Shalom and other anti-occupation people and groups that could have been, but were not, mobilized. But I did want to check it out. It is a very complicated matter (unlike everything else under discuission here:) and deserves a separate discussion.

    Saif: I agree with you that there should be a Palestinian on this panel. But I was outvoted by the (other) organizers. I hope to be involved with or help to organize more events on this very topic and in the future and assume that they will have more “balance”

    That said, there is a good rationale for starting off with American Jews talking about the challenges we face in our own community when it comes to saying what we think and feel about Israel and its conventional lobbyists. Everyone on that panel (which, BTW, will be moderated by JJ Goldberg) wants an environment in which it is possible to discuss Israel, warts and all, with the same candor that one finds in the Israeli media.

    Based upon what I can gather from your previous, passionately hostile comments on this blog and others, as well as your own web site, I think you might find it interesting to eavesdrop on this internal, communal conversation.

  15. Its hard to stand with what is described as a “unified voice”, when that voice includes contempt for Jewish community.

  16. Those at the rallies that scream “death to Israel”, rather than “change some of your laws, policies and practises”.

  17. Richard Witty: Editions of malevolent falsehood.

    LeaNder: Which nobody denies. But are you suggesting it can’t be interesting to study a forgery, that in fact is not monolithic but may well have been a cooperative product in its possibly Russian genesis and then fit into the respective national contexts? The distributive history suggests a European network that was aware it was a forgery, it thus could easily adapt the forgery into the respective national contexts.

    Equally interesting/Mirrors: What part does Machiavelli’s Il Principe/The Prince play in this “malevolent falsehood” via his use in Maurice Joly’s Dialogue aux enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu the bible of Politicians and another main source?

    I am boring you. Don’t bother to answer. This is a monologue.

  18. It is interesting to study forgeries as a study of propaganda.

    Using the term “version” as you did earlier, implied to me that you considered perhaps only the “version” was a falsehood, and that there was some authentic original somewhere.

    Hard to know from your posts.

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